The sweetest taste in life is that of success. Achievements, awards, acknowledgements of effort, victories that validate all the blood, sweat and tears spent for a cause, making it all worthwhile in the end. Success is that popular kid in school whom everyone wants to befriend. That superstar whom everyone salivates over, waiting for just a glimpse or swooning over a single handshake. Everybody wants a brush with success. Failure, on the other hand, is that dirty, ragged kid on the pavement whom everyone will sympathise with and cluck their tongues over but none will come forward to claim and to own. No one wishes to own failure.

And yet, failure is like the intricate network of nerves and veins in our body, vital to our functioning but ugly to behold. For failure is the only path to success — you don’t learn to walk before first mastering how to get up when you fall. Failure is vital to your functioning, and yet the world finds it hideous to look at. You don’t want your veins and nerves to be visible, what you want the world to look at is the epidermis, the skin that forms your outer self. The smooth, polished, powdered and augmented version of yourself. You wish the world to see only those parts of you that are synonymous with success.

Not only do you not want your failures to be visible, you also do not wish to take ownership of them — to take responsibility for having failed. It is human nature to try and pass the buck, blame external factors and other people for one’s failures. It is never you who have failed; it is always the world that has conspired to rob you of our success. It is a universal phenomenon, which social scientists refer to as the ‘Self-serving bias’: our failures are never a result of our own actions but an outcome of adverse external factors, while our success is entirely based on our own efforts — or so we think. Conversely, when it comes to other people, we almost always attribute their success to external factors while blaming their own actions and inherent traits for their failures. In other words, it’s the thought process that declares: “I was unlucky, but you just weren’t good enough.”

As the name suggests, the self-serving bias serves the self—but in ways that are actually detrimental to growth. For it is only when we learn to own our mistakes and our failures that we can be liberated from them. And from the imagined influences of cosmic forces working to keep us down.

To own your stumble and your fall is to try and assess where you went wrong, reflect and analyse what you could have done differently and how you can get up, find another direction, and make it to the top. When you stop blaming the world for making you fail, you take the first step towards success —clearing out the backlog. You let go of negativity and grudges, you let go of the feeling of having been tricked into failure. That’s one whole load of emotional clutter disposed of already. Instead of the angry blur in your mind, the picture becomes clear, sharpened to precision. Getting out of the blame game lets you take ownership of your life, by taking control away from the external factors and putting the spotlight back on you. And isn’t that where you would always want to be?

Zehra Naqvi